Much of the back pain people experience today is caused by muscle tension and weakness. Getting in shape, along with practicing proper posture and body mechanics, will help most people alleviate pain. There are a number of back pain products on the market designed to facilitate better posture throughout your day and relieve muscle tension. Consider the following products to supplement your workout and stretching routine.
When we sit all day, at the office or in the car, our lower backs grow tired and our posture begins to suffer. The lumbar spine naturally arches inward, but when our muscles grow tired and we slump down, the arch is lost. Muscle tension and spinal disc compression throughout the back result. Lumbar support cushions are helpful to those who need to sit for prolonged periods of time; they support the spinal arch and give the lower back muscles a rest.
Cushions can be purchased in a variety of sizes and materials. Some have straps that allow you to secure them onto the back of your chair or car seat. A good cushion can be purchased for under $20, making lumbar supports an affordable option for drivers and office workers.
A different approach to back pain management is active sitting, which involves the activation of core muscles while you sit. This provides a low-grade workout for the core and promotes proper posture. The disc cushion is an inflatable device that slightly destabilizes your seating surface to facilitate engagement of core muscles. While not an option in the car, it is great for those who spend most of the day sitting at a desk.
Most disc cushions fall in the price range of $15-$30. They come in a variety of sizes and colors.
Another active sitting product is the exercise ball. While traditionally used for stretching and exercising, the balls have made their way into the modern office as a replacement for office chairs. Exercise balls provide more destabilization than disc cushions and, therefore, a more rigorous core workout. They demand proper posture, since you’ll simply fall off if you slump. Because they require more effort, exercise balls shouldn’t be used all day; try alternating an exercise ball and regular office chair throughout the day to prevent muscle fatigue and strain.
An exercise ball can be purchased for $20 or less. It’s important to get a ball that is the right size for your body, as one that is too big or small won’t facilitate proper posture. See the helpful guide at www.spine-health.com to learn more on getting the right ball for you.
While all ergonomic products have the capacity to encourage body awareness, the LUMOBack does so perhaps better than most. Unlike the products above, it doesn’t physically support better posture; it relies solely on making you aware of your posture. The LUMOBack is comprised of a thin, discreet belt with a sensor on it. You wear the belt on your lower back; the sensor sits on your spine. When your spine angle deviates from the optimal, the sensor lets out a gentle vibration to inform you of the change, allowing you to correct your posture. The product also comes with apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod that provide visuals of your posture and track your posture throughout the day; this allows you to see when your posture suffers most.
The LUMOback currently costs $149, making it a more expensive investment than the products listed above. For people with chronic back pain, it may be worth the expense as it focuses on long-term education and behavioral change. For more information on this innovative product, see store.lumoback.com.
Muscle tension is a common result of long work days, stress and poor posture. Massage aides can be helpful both for the occasional tension and for more chronic muscle knots that develop over time and keep your muscles tight.
Foam rollers are used for a practice called self-myofascial release (SMR). SMR targets muscles that have been tense for some time and that have developed knots called trigger points. Foam rollers are dense, cylindrical foam devices that you roll over to force muscles to stretch out and regain elasticity. When you hit a knot, you stop rolling and maintain steady pressure on it for 30-45 seconds. SMR is ideal for people with chronic muscle tension and pain caused by knots, particularly in the lower body and the back.
Foam rollers come in a variety of sizes and colors. Some have raised areas similar to studs on the surface. A good roller can be purchased for $20 or less.
Trigger Point Massager:
The two most popular and highest-rated products for targeting trigger points are the Body Back Buddy and the Thera Cane. These devices consist of a curved cane with a number of branches and knobs projecting from it. They are designed to provide the user with a number of options for easily targeting hard-to-reach trigger points in the back, shoulders and neck. Foam rollers often can’t hone in on these areas, making trigger point devices a better option. To use trigger point massagers, you position a knob on a muscle knot and pull on the cane.
The two brands above sell for $35. For people with muscle knots in the upper body, they are a worthwhile investment.
The acupressure mat uses the principles of acupuncture, but without the needles. The mat consists of a series of spokes evenly distributed to prevent skin puncture. Think of the “bed of nails” concept, but on a mat with plastic points. The points stimulate blood flow to the back and relieve muscle tension. They are useful for relaxation and headache relief as well.
Acupressure mats can be purchased for between $20 and $30; some come with a specially-designed rounded mat for the neck, bringing the cost up to around $40. They are ideal for those with chronic muscle tension from exercise or stress.
The above products can help relieve back pain by reducing muscle tension and encouraging proper posture. When back pain strikes, consider affordable, natural options before medication.